Jigsaws – you either love them or hate them. I fall into the first category and find it almost impossible to pass a work in progress without accepting the challenge of fitting at least one piece. Some jigsaws are rather thin and cheap, the parts creasing or breaking off. Others are sturdy and cleanly cut. Wooden jigsaws are wonderful – colourful chunky sections designed to be held in hot little hands and to withstand many of the rigours small children can impose on their toys.
The worst jigsaws are the papery cardboard ones to be found in cheap Christmas crackers or as free gifts in packets of cereal or children's magazines. It was just such a one I was wrestling with recently. Actually, it was worse than a freebie because the pieces were so small, each one approximately one and five sixteenths by three sixteenths of an inch (3.4 centimetres x 0.5 centimetres) You may have realised by now that this was no ordinary jigsaw. In fact it was a 'failed delivery' card from Royal Mail indicating where and when a parcel for which Barry had been waiting could be signed for and collected. It had arrived while he was taking me to the railway station on Saturday (when did they start to be known as 'train stations' by the way?)
As it was a Bank Holiday on Monday he had to wait until today to pick it up but when he looked for the card yesterday it was nowhere to be found. Had I seen it? I could have pretended ignorance of the whole matter but would it have been better to spend the entire day on a spurious hunt with him becoming increasingly irate and repeating at frequent intervals, 'I left it there; I know I left it there. It can't have disappeared. Are you sure you haven't seen it?' or to come clean and confess that I had shredded it? Dear reader, I bit the bullet and bowed my head to receive the disbelieving scorn poured on it.
Now, you may wonder why I had destroyed the only evidence Barry had of the existence of a parcel addressed to him. If you had lived with him as long as I have you would nod your head in sympathy – empathy, even – for he is the untidiest individual I have ever known. Important details are scribbled on pieces of paper, backs of envelopes, till receipts, the back of his hand. I used to tidy them away (not his hand, obviously . . .) and we have been making an effort lately to make space in our increasingly cluttered house. We also have a number of deliveries throughout the year and delivery cards are like confetti – the last one certainly was by the time I'd minced it! – so when I saw it by the front door I assumed it referred to another package we had just received. 'Didn't you read it?' he demanded. It was not the time to make a clever rejoinder so I bit my tongue and got on with the task of putting the card back together. This involved searching through the contents of the shredder basket – it's amazing how many papers there are that are the same shade of Royal Mail red – and sticking them on transparent plastic. I had thought it through, you see – the back needed to be legible too. After an hour or two of this exercise I was getting nowhere fast and eventually Barry, having discovered that he had other evidence of his purchase and the subsequent right to the failed delivery, made me a cup of tea and apologised. He's a very nice man really.
Today he collected the parcel without any problems whatsoever. When I asked him if he'd explained what his idiot wife had done he tried to dissemble but the grin gave away the truth, bless him!
Did you know there are people, usually women, who are employed to put together important shredded documents? Maybe it's to do with industrial espionage or political fandangos but these women have small hands with nimble fingers. I haven't but I did quite well.